Volume 21 Issue 10 October 2017


On November 8, 2016, when Donald Trump was elected into the presidential office of the United States out of the blue, it appeared like a major blow to Pakistan’s prospects of bringing the long Afghan war to an early and logical conclusion in a peaceful manner.

This is because from the very start of his election campaign, Trump’s volatility and perceived lack of knowledge of foreign affairs showed up loud and clear and it was widely feared that if he became the US president, his political ineptness would further upset the chances for long-term peace and stability in the war-torn region, wherein the United States happens to be the biggest stakeholder.

To many, Donald Trump flaunts a style typical of a business tycoon instead of exuding a personality that represents a genuine political strategist like the former US president Barack Hussein Obama, who could hold his horses to bring a lasting solution to meet American interests.

Many fear Trump’s hasty decision-making, his blunt tone, as well as his hard-line, win-the-deal approach to diplomacy will edge the Afghan region toward further ruin, as he is not that politically smart or as shrewd as Hillary Clinton was, as she was quite a seasoned diplomat who could confidently stand up on any international forum with a huge smile on her face while carrying daisy-cutters and cluster bombs up her sleeves.

Fear coming true, Donald Trump, being the US President, is now steering the course of policy-making and is eager to see the results in no time, even in such crucial areas as foreign policy where it takes a while for things to happen. Contrary to popular opinion, many people now perceive Donald Trump’s entry into the US presidential office a blessing in disguise as he could be the catalyst the world desperately needed to expedite the war’s end that seems unlikely, given the slow pace of the U.S. efforts concentrated in the Afghan region.

In addition to that, Trump’s rise to the US presidency was also taken by anti-U.S. elements as the start of America's downfall, as he seems to have the ability to make wrong decisions in haste and his unorthodox approach to global politics makes him vulnerable to draw flawed conclusions. The judgment stands true to a large extent, as this has recently been shown when, on August 21, 2017, the U.S. President announced a new US strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.
Revealing the highlights of his strategy to carry on the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, Trump said, “In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America.”

These are exactly the same views that were shared by earlier US president George W. Bush Junior when he publicly announced the initiation of war on terror post-9/11. However, Pakistan appears to be a decisive addition made to the US President’s policy speech, which clearly identifies the major areas where the U.S. future efforts are going to be concentrated.

In hindsight, the U.S. policy shift seems to be a major blow to a country like Pakistan that has lost over $123.1 billion to date on account of a loss of over 80,000 civilian and military lives, economic opportunities and damage to the country’s infrastructure since it joined the U.S. led ‘War on Terror.’ On the other hand, the inclusion of Pakistan in the U.S. hit-list appears to be a major victory for India, which has played no role in the war on terror in Afghanistan, but has emerged as a major American ally in the region, making the most of its neighbour’s vulnerable position.

According to Trump, “Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” he says.

This indicates more than a policy shift by the U.S. toward a further assertion of its hegemony in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, as in the past the US has always avoided bringing Pakistan and India head-to-head to avoid any collision between both nuclear states. However, pushing India at the centre of peace, security and development efforts in Afghanistan is tantamount to encircling Pakistan and the move will further destabilise the war-torn region and will turn Afghanistan into a staging ground for fights between regional powers.

Though it looks counterproductive to assign India a leading role in Afghanistan in terms of bringing lasting peace to the country, but this time the American thinktanks are looking beyond such cosmetic objectives and are following a well-measured plan of action that has less to do with Afghanistan and more to do with Pakistan. As rightly said by Trump in his historic policy speech on August 21, “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

If one is able to decode the verbal cue given by the US President, it will not take much effort to know the direction of U.S. attacks that now chiefly aim at targeting Pakistan’s nuclear assets and disarming the country of its nuclear weapons to bring it to such a point where it will no longer be able to dictate its terms. And this is what makes Donald Trump an ideal US President for the rest of the world, as he does not conceal his true feelings or hide his real intentions under diplomatic statements. In his speech he clearly specified the area where the United States, in agreement with Afghanistan and India, aims to home in on.

He said, “And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter. But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically. A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”

He further explained, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harbouring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.”

Released in March 2015, a research report ‘Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror’ reveals at least 1.3 million lives lost in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan alone since the onset of the war following September 11, 2001. In other word, it does not make a difference for the US government and its armed forces to undertake military actions in the guise of peacemaking initiatives, as far as Muslims are dying in small or huge numbers. However, the exceedingly high numbers of human losses during the 16-year US war suggests Americans neither have the ability nor desire to establish peace in the region, as they are simply led by their paranoia of being the world’s superpower that keeps them going in weird directions.

The new U.S. policy chiefly aims at targeting Pakistan while Afghanistan will merely be used as a base camp of American soldiers. Pakistan’s former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has been repeatedly talking about the imminent external security threats posed to the country. Though he thinks only he and three other persons in the country’s civil-military leadership are aware of the security threats, the paradigm shift in the US policy regarding Pakistan and Trump’s decision to send more troops to the war implies a one-to-one face-off between Pakistan and the US forces sooner or later. The countdown has just begun.

The writer is a member of the staff.
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